6 Goal-Setting Mistakes One-Person Business Owners Make

Shawn Fink
7 min readNov 1, 2022

You started your business for the freedom it would give you and then you quickly learned that to offset that salary you once had working for someone else’s company, you don’t have as much freedom as you’d like.

In fact, it’s a lot more work than you thought and there is a constant piling up on your to-do list.

This is the life of a creative solopreneur and personal brand.

We currently have a lot of personal brands, thought leaders and creators trying to make it as one-person businesses and, therefore, a lot of amazing people trying to make it big in this world.

Your success doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s …

The thing is, though, being a solopreneur means that for every YES, there must be a NO, and for every NO, you are making space for a YES.

Not all goals are created equal and all too often I see solopreneurs setting themselves up for failure by setting goals that are actually designed for a team — and not a one-person solo show that centers their thriving and prosperity.

I’ve been a solopreneur for 10 years full-time and I made these very goal-setting mistakes more than once — until I learned how to truly set goals that put a fire in my belly AND were doable.

6 Goal-Setting Mistakes One-Person Business Owners Make

You Set Goals That Are Too Big

Planning too audacious goals without the capacity — or the resources is a common goal-setting mistake, especially for solopreneurs and personal brands. After all, are we even good enough if we aren’t pushing ourselves to some ridiculous standard?

The thing is, though, when you’re truly going after really big goals, you need a sustainable strategy and unwavering and unconditional support — as well as compassionate accountability.

Your partner — who has their own life goals and challenges — does not count in most cases.

I’m a big fan of audacious goals — things that are going to move the needle in your business — but I never set a big goal without the support and resources in place. I’ve learned that when I do that, I am 3x more successful with achieving my goals.

You Set Goals that Are too Small

If you set goals and cross them off the next week or two, that’s a sign that your goals are a bit too small. This is another common goal-setting pitfall I see with solopreneurs and small business owners.

When you are setting goals that are easily crossed off that is evidence that your goals are actually tasks — not goals.

More often than not most solopreneurs are playing too small because they are at capacity and don’t have leftover reserves for anything more than they must do. If this is you, consider devoting yourself to up-leveling your capacity by creating simple, joyful and sustainable systems and operations, setting bolder business boundaries and designing a business for what I call The Entrepreneur’s Freedom Trifecta is essential.

Goals should have some reach to them, some grit required — and the right goals will need a strategy and tactics to make happen.

You Set Goals that are Shoulds and Not Authentic to Your Business Needs

Possibly more derailing than all the goal-setting mistakes listed here, setting SHOULD Goals is the one that often causes burnout and resentment in a business.

Should goals are often based on what others are doing — or saying you should do. These goals are often created by watching online gurus or speakers talking about their own goals — or from reading articles or books.

An example of should goals that I see happening a lot right now is posting on social media even if you hate it or pitching podcasts even if you don’t feel comfortable doing so.

Setting goals based on where you “should be” is usually out of alignment with what you really need right now for yourself and your business and can cause a serious case of shiny object syndrome.

Should Goals are also distractions to doing the real work that your business needs — which is often a simple revenue sustainability plan.

You Set Goals That Are Out of Your Control

This goal-setting mistake is the one I could share as a TedTalk right now.

This one is about choosing business goals that are out of YOUR control and, therefore, create a constant feeling of failure.

When a goal is out of your control, it means you are trying to reach a number goal that is based on other people’s actions such as hitting a certain sales goal or revenue goal.

For a solopreneur, revenue is your job but so are a million other things. So your goals need to be well within your control to make happen — rather than hoping things will work out by what other people do or do not do.

At the upcoming Design Your Bravest Business Year Yet you will learn going how to choose audacious goals that are well within your control. Not easy goals, but goals that will uplevel you and redefine YOUR comfort zone.

You Set Goals that are Beyond Your Capacity

Sometimes we take on more than we can chew — in food, and in setting our business goals as one-person business operations.

I know I have done this — with both food AND business goals.

We have such good intentions!

When your goals require more time, energy and resources than you are able to give, you need to either scale back or level up and maybe a one-person business isn’t going to be enough capacity to do the work needed.

When you don’t have the bandwidth to do everything that is required, this can lead to a feeling of defeat and not being good enough rather than an acceptance that you may be feeling like the bottleneck in your own one-person business.

Ease is always important and so setting goals that will keep you motivated AND feel like ease is essential so that you feel momentum and traction at every turn.

You Set Goals that Require Toxic Productivity

Forgetting yourself and your role in the business goals — if your goals are constantly about climbing, chasing, and striving to meet the next number or deadline you may put your own creative and life desires on hold until SOME DAY.

Some day when I finally hit 7 figures … someday, someday, someday.

These kinds of goals sound good on the face but often take away your joy and your ability to be present for your life and family right now. Building a business that is successful is a lofty goal — but if you have to sacrifice your joy now, it is worth it? To some, yes. To many, no.

Toxic productivity is a constant state of needing to improve on everything in yourself and your business and not ever feeling satiated by those attempts. In other words, no matter how many hours you work, it’s never enough.

The truth is that choosing goals should be intentional and joy-filled — not just strategic.

Sometimes it can feel like we’re Goldilocks trying to find the right goals.

Too big.

Too small.

Sometimes we hear the “jump off the cliff and do the hard things” voice that tells us to set big, hairy, audacious goals and suffer through to make them happen.

And, then there are the slow and boring “business as usual” goals.

Instead, I encourage my clients to set Brave YES business goals.

What’s a Brave YES Goal?

A Brave YES goal lands “just right” … and hits you square in your Expansion Zone, meaning it’s designed to help you grow into who you need to be and how you want to show up SO you can hit all of your goals.

This kind of YES goal feels good in your mind, body and spirit because it’s designed for you and who you want to be in your business and how you want to run your business — on your terms.

Every part of you says YES so it’s also a no-brainer to make happen.

The Expansion Zone is where you walk to the edge of your comfort zone, slowly expanding your resilience and courage muscles.

During Design Your Bravest Business Year Yet Retreat, I will guide you through a 2023 goal-setting process that isn’t about numbers and shoulds — but about heart and soul — and all of it will be 100 percent within your control to make happen. I will inspire you to choose clear, courageous objectives that creatively stretch you AND create momentum for you and your business in 2023.

Originally published at https://shawnfink.com on November 1, 2022.



Shawn Fink

I help wholehearted entrepreneurs be #BusinessBrave and start taking up more space and running your biz on your terms.